A range of collaboration vehicles exist under the Next Generation Technologies Fund providing choice and flexibility in scale, and time-to-delivery - from ambitious Grand Challenges to lean and focused technology acceleration.

This allows Defence to engage a range of research partners, individually or in teams, from start-ups to primes and national research organisations.

When there are opportunities to participate in research collaborations, the Next Generation Technologies Fund will generally issue a call for submissions.

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Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges are large-scale, cross-disciplinary initiatives that support research into significant defence and national security challenges. The modern defence environment is highly complex. Real capability breakthroughs require a collaborative, cross-disciplinary research effort, and large strategic challenges require a national effort. The Grand Challenges Program provides the scale and intensity needed to make a difference. It brings small agile companies, including start-ups, larger companies and academic researchers to work alongside Defence Science and Technology (DST) scientists.

All Grand Challenge projects are mission-focused, with clearly-defined end goals. The program is risk tolerant to promote innovation, recognising that some outcomes may not be in line with initial expectations.

Podcast: countering improvised threats

The first Grand Challenge program focused on countering improvised threats. The inaugural project director, Shane Canney, says there was an overwhelming response that bodes well for the future of the Grand Challenges.

Listen to the podcast

Defence Cooperative Research Centres

Defence Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) create research centres that bring together small to medium businesses, academia and publicly funded research agencies to research priority technologies for future Defence capability.

The Defence CRC program is part of the Next Generation Technologies Fund. Each Defence CRC is focused on a high-priority next generation technology with the potential to have a game-changing effect on Defence capabilities.

Through Defence CRCs, Defence seeks to link industry, particularly small to medium enterprises, with academia and DST scientists to create vibrant collaborative research and innovation networks focusing on Defence capability outcomes.

Defence CRC topics are identified through analysis and consultation with Defence, including by taking note of the outcomes of the Technology Futures and Foresight program.

Defence CRC opportunities

When there are opportunities to participate in new Defence CRCs, Defence will issue a call for submissions.

Opportunities may be available to participate in Australia’s first Defence CRC. The Defence CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems is developing autonomous and robotic technologies to improve Australia’s defence and national security capabilities.

University Research Networks

University Research Networks bring together academic researchers from multiple universities and DST scientists to collaborate on research topics for the development of future Defence capabilities.

University Research Networks (URNs) are part of the Next Generation Technologies Fund. These cross-disciplinary projects span 3–5 years and are open only to universities.

Defence invests in university-level research to explore emerging technologies because it wants to identify disruptive innovation and pull it forward for earlier realisation. URN projects also link academics and enhance expertise.

A key feature of URNs is the crossing of disciplines as a driver of innovation. URNs take different forms, with some involving international academic collaboration, such as the Australia-United States Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (AUSMURI), while others are limited to only Australian academics. All projects involve substantial scale and high risk tolerance to promote innovation.

Strategic Research Program

Defence Science and Technology has an ongoing program of strategic research initiatives aligned with Defence priorities.

If a new concept or technology domain shows potential to be developed into leap-ahead capabilities, further research will be undertaken under the Next Generation Technologies Fund, using partners from across the innovation enterprise. The ongoing development of Australia's medical countermeasures research program, for example, could be facilitated under the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

Cyber research

Australia faces emerging threats, some of which require leap-ahead capabilities as a response. For example, the 2016 Defence White Paper recognised that, over the next 20 years, the strategic environment will be shaped by complex, non-geographic threats including in cyberspace. The Next Generation Technologies Fund will be used to enhance the strategic partnership with CSIRO's Data61 to shape a national cyber research capability and conduct joint research in cyber and wireless networks. The partnership will undertake research collaboration, co-fund and co-direct academic research projects with leading Australian universities, and co-supervise and finance PhD scholarships on a large scale. Four strategic themes have been identified:

  1. Influence and analytics
  2. Sensing and effects
  3. System design for resilience
  4. Autonomous systems

Small Business Innovation Research for Defence (SBIRD)

Small Business Innovation Research for Defence (SBIRD) supports small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to work on research projects aligned with defence priorities. SBIRD projects may relate to specific challenges identified by Defence, or have a broader scope across an emerging technology field with potential for disruptive innovation. SBIRD projects are research intensive and address future-focused challenges aligned with DST strategic direction and work programs.

SMEs are a critical part of Australia’s defence industry and provide agility and risk tolerance for innovation. The SBIRD scheme helps SMEs undertake research to find innovative solutions to specific defence challenges.

SBIRD is a merit-based program with 2 phases:

  • Stage 1: Specific challenges will be identified for each round, addressing a future Defence problem. Initial funding will allow research to be undertaken to assess the feasibility of the idea. As a guide, Defence Technology Readiness Levels range from 1 to 3 in Stage 1. Successful projects will be invited to apply for Stage 2.
  • Stage 2: Further funding will be provided for research into testing the idea against the application (potentially proof of concept). Depending on the status of the technology, an invited proposal for Stage 2 might be taken up within SBIRD as a research-based project, or taken up by the Defence Innovation Hub for maturation and accelerated commercialisation.

Successful SBIRD project outcomes might be commercialised directly by the participant, be the subject of a separate development support application with the Defence Innovation Hub, or be adapted to support other Next Generation Technologies Fund ventures such as a Grand Challenge or Defence Cooperative Research Centre.

Defence Research Accelerator

The Defence Research Accelerator program works with existing accelerators within the national innovation system, such as CSIRO’s ON Prime program, to support the start-up community with an interest in Defence.

A new generation of innovators is developing breakthrough products without the huge capital costs traditionally required for cutting-edge research and development. This agile approach leads to technology disruption, where inventions of new processes, products or systems are rapidly developed and applied to known problems in unexpected ways. Bringing this inventive approach to the market for Defence and national security products will improve capability outcomes.

Technology Futures and Foresight

The Technology Futures and Foresight program brings together internationally recognised leaders and academic partners to consider the current defence environment, forecast future challenges and shape long-term defence vision. The Emerging and Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium (EDTAS) series is one of Next Generation Technologies Fund’s headline foresight activities.

The EDTAS series explores and identifies opportunities and potential leap-ahead technology areas for the Next Generation Technologies Fund. Each symposium addresses an expansive science and technology topic that is expected to have a major transformational or disruptive impact on defence and national security.

During the symposium the impacts of future technology developments are analysed through a range of social, ethical, legal and economic lenses. EDTAS will help inform current Next Generation Technologies Fund investment decisions while also identifying and shaping future investment opportunities.

The EDTAS structure ensures internationally recognised thought leaders are brought together to work in a multidisciplinary workshop environment to enhance mutual understanding and help shape the long-term vision for the technology topic being worked on. For each EDTAS, DST, universities and industry partner to co-host the symposium and help strategic planning.

These partnerships are formalised by contracting arrangements and memoranda of understanding. Following each EDTAS, a ‘tiger team’ comprising DST, industry and academia produces a report outlining the events and outcomes of the symposium. This report is influential in Defence strategic planning and Next Generation Technologies Fund investment decisions, and informs national debate around technology.

Read more

Find out about opportunities for research in emerging and future technologies that have potential defence applications.